Want to accelerate your fat loss in a healthy, sensible way? If you’ve got the motivation and want fat loss to speed along as quickly as possible, then check out these seven simple steps. There’s nothing complicated and all of the strategies are evidence-based…because science matters.
When you want to lose fat, you want to do it FAST.
Many people try any shortcut they can find to speed up their fat loss, including starving themselves with juice detoxes, fasting and overexercising with hours of cardio.
Not necessary or recommended!
There are much more effective ways to accelerate your fat loss and I’ve got seven to get you torching fat in no time.
Follow this combination of nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle tips to get you on your way:
1) Reduce Your Calories
Weight loss really comes down to Calories In and Calories Out. You can indeed lose weight with completely garbage food, as long as you’re eating fewer calories. That’s why Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, was able to lose 27 pounds on a diet of Twinkies, Doritos, cereals, and Oreos. Personally, I feel a bit sick just thinking about all that junk, but consuming less total calories really does make sense.
Most diets that you hear about, whether it’s Paleo, Keto, Veganism, The Zone, Juicing, Weight Watchers, Atkins, and The Dukan Diet do their work by restricting the foods you eat and making it easier to reduce your calories. At least Weight Watchers is honest about why it works! Many of the other diets claim that it’s some sort of insulin-balancing, detoxifying, energy-multiplying voodoo that’s making the magic happen.
These diets make it easier to keep your calories down by either managing your appetite/cravings or making it so hard to find foods that fit into the plan that you end up eating a lot less (I’m looking at you, Keto and Veganism!).
In my group online coaching program Lean365, I teach my members how to look at their nutrition plans (we don’t use the word “diet”!) from both a quantitative (calories) and qualitative (what kind of food you’re eating) perspective…because both of those elements matter.
If you’re looking to speed up your fat loss then determining how many calories you’re currently eating and doing an initial reduction of about 250-300 calories per day can be a good way to start. Start tracking your calories easily with an app like myfitnesspal.
2) Get Your Protein Intake Up
When it comes to fat loss, it’s not just calories that are important though. The macronutrient breakdown (protein, fat, carb) matters too. I’ll go into protein benefits in the next section, but it’s the most vital macro for fat loss.
The benefits of diets with higher protein levels are plentiful.
Protein keeps you feeling full so that you’re less likely to overeat. It can also help you recover from your workouts better. Better repair means more progress with your muscle building and the ability to put in more effort into subsequent workouts (which means that things keep getting better!)
Protein preserves your lean muscle mass, especially when you’re in a calorie deficit, which is what you already know you have to do.
Higher protein diets are more likely to keep your mood elevated. Ever felt cranky when trying to lose weight? No doubt. Some research has shown high protein diets reduced stress, mood disturbance, fatigue, and diet-related dissatisfaction than moderate protein diets. More diet satisfaction means more dietary adherence. And we know that being able to stick to a diet is the main criteria for whether it will be successful or not.
Is Eating High Protein SAFE?
Nervous about protein intake and your kidneys? Don’t be.
High protein intakes have not been shown to to be harmful to the kidneys, but anyone with kidney disease should keep their protein intake low. For the record, about 14% of people in the US suffer from kidney disease. For the other 86% of the population, there’s no evidence that higher protein intakes harm the kidneys.
Heard the one about protein being dangerous because it leaches calcium from your bones? Actually, high-protein diets have been shown to prevent osteoporosis.
3) Lift Heavy Weights And Use Compound Exercises
Gaining muscle is the key to building a low-fat physique. The more muscle you’re carrying, the more metabolically active your body is.
The primary mechanism of muscle hypertrophy (growth) is mechanical tension. This refers to how heavy a weight you’re lifting. That’s why progressive resistance training, which my Lean 365 program is based on, is the most effective way to build muscle and lose fat fast. As you get stronger, you increase the weight you’re lifting and increase your muscle mass.
So weight training, 3-5 days a week for about an hour is going to help your fat loss along. When you design your training plan, you want to make it as efficient as possible and do the most valuable exercises. You don’t want to waste all your precious time in the gym, do you?
Weight training exercises are generally divided into compound and isolation movements.
Compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups.
Examples include: Squats, lunges, deadlifts, shoulder presses, rows, chin-ups, dips.
Isolation exercises involve just one joint and one major muscle group.
Isolation exercises include: Leg extensions on a machine, hamstring curls, biceps curls, tricep kickbacks, front shoulder raises, calf raises.
As much as possible, stick to compound lifts rather than isolation moves.
Compound exercises allow you to work more muscle groups at the same time, in a functional way. Hitting more muscle groups means that you’re building more muscle and getting stronger efficiently.
Compound exercises have also been shown to increase testosterone and growth hormone response. Both of these hormones support muscle-building and fat loss, so it pays to optimize them. The training effect on these hormones probably isn’t as dramatic as we’d like, but when you’re looking to lose fat fast you want any advantage you can find.
4) Use Caffeine, Particularly Before Workouts
Who doesn’t love their daily cup(s) of coffee or tea? It turns out that having a bit of caffeine on the menu can help speed up your fat loss.
Caffeine is often used as a supplement by athletes to enhance performance. Moderate-to-high doses have consistently been shown to improve performance in endurance exercise when consumed prior to exercise.
People who consume caffeine were found in a study to be more likely to maintain weight loss. More research is needed, but there could be a few different reasons why this happens:
Caffeine gives you more energy – When you have more energy you’re more likely to move around more frequently and burn more calories throughout the day. Putting more effort into your workouts means burning more calories through a more challenging workout or being able to lift more weight (which means you build more metabolically active muscle).
Caffeine blunts your appetite – When you’re less hungry, you eat less food (duh!). Fewer calories means that you’re likely to stimulate fat loss.
Caffeine may actually increase your metabolic rate, albeit marginally.
For performance-related benefits for athletes, the dosage that’s considered moderate-high (but still safe for most healthy people) is 5-13mg/kg of body mass. Lower doses of about 3mg/kg will still provide benefits like increased alertness and are associated with few, if any side effects.
A person who weighs 80kgs (177 pounds) could have 240mg of caffeine for low-dose caffeine benefits. An average coffee has about 100mg of caffeine, while black tea has around 40mg, and green tea has about 25mg. Caffeine can vary depending on the type of coffee/tea and how long it’s brewed, so be careful to add all your caffeine sources as accurately as you can.
The maximum concentration of caffeine in the blood is achieved 30-60 minutes after consumption, so have your coffee or tea from 30 minutes to right before your workout to get the most training benefit during your exercise sessions.
Just try to cut out caffeine later in the day, so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. Caffeine has a half-life in the human body of 2-12 hours, depending on your individual metabolism, so it’s possible that half of the dose you took (5omg of a 100mg coffee) can still be in your body up to 12 hours later!
If you’re a shift worker, or parent to young children, don’t waste a minute feeling guilty using caffeine to get you through the day. Sometimes we just have to push through tougher times in our lives with less sleep. Do what you can. If you’re concerned about how healthy coffee is for you, rest assured that there are also plenty of health benefits.
5) Do HIIT Sessions A Couple Of Times A Week
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a conditioning exercise (cardio!) that involves periods of high intensity effort interspersed with periods of active rest. There are many different variations (ratios between work and rest) of HIIT, but the research definition says that your high intensity efforts should achieve at least 80%, and preferably 85-95% of your maximal heart rate. That means you need to work HARD for a short period of time, from 10-30 seconds, and then do something of lighter intensity for 1.5-3 minutes (depending on your fitness level).
It only takes 6-8 of these high intensity bursts per session to qualify as a full HIIT workout and you can do it with just about any exercise.
Here are a few examples of HIIT Workouts:
Start with 5-10 minutes of warm-up, gently and gradually increasing the intensity of the activity you’re going to do.
Skipping Rope – Do 20 seconds of skipping very fast, then jog very slowly on the spot for 2 minutes.
Repeat 6-8 times (a total of 20-30mins on the gym floor, including your warm-up!).
Stationary Cycling -Do 30 seconds of rapid peddling on a stationary bike (increase the resistance so you don’t spin too fast) at about 100-110 RPM, followed by 90 seconds of slower peddling at an RPM of 70-80.
Repeat 6-8 times.
Elliptical Machine – Push yourself for as hard as you can (at a tension level that makes sense for your fitness level) for 15 secs. Ease back into a recovery pace that would allow you to have a conversation for 90 secs.
Repeat 6-8 times.
Calisthenics – You can use just about any exercise for HIIT, as long as it allows you to get your heart rate up and then have a recovery period before repeating again.
You can do 20 jumping jacks and then jog on the spot for a minute.
I’ve often used my favourite martial arts moves, like a steady succession of kicks or punches, to do HIIT sessions. I just do 20 rapid kicks, maybe recover with some light shadow boxing, and then do 20 fast kicks in a row again.
The important thing about HIIT is that you get your heart rate up to about 80-90% of your maximum heart rate (MHR, estimated at 220 minus your age) for 20-30 seconds and then recover for about 90-120 seconds.
So for a 40-year-old, your MHR is 180.
180 X 0.8=144
180 X 0.9= 162
Your target heart rate during the high-intensity part of HIIT would be 144-162 beats per minute…which is pretty high. You can wear a heart rate monitor to check it accurately or you can estimate based on perceived exertion. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is lying down and 10 is as hard as you can possibly go without dropping dead, you should be at a 8 or 9 for the high intensity part. Remember that it’s only 20-30 seconds though!
HIIT has been shown to burn a greater amount of fat than traditional steady-state cardio and it’s also been shown to increase muscle power and free testosterone (a helpful hormone for fat loss!) in male masters athletes (60+). HIIT workouts are also very efficient, and allow you to achieve a lot of physiological benefit in a short period of time.
Ideal for you because you’re busy, right?
6) Drink Plenty Of Water
Most athletic people already drink a lot of water, particularly during workouts, but if you know you’re not one of those (yet!) then make an effort to add more water to your routine.
In your body, water is involved in digestion, management of body temperature, circulation, creation of saliva, and transport of nutrients.
Dehydration is responsible for a host of side effects including fatigue, constipation, headaches, etc. It can also stall your fat loss efforts if you mistake thirst for hunger. It’s a good idea to drink a glass of water first when you feel hungry. When you replace calorie-packed beverages with water, you’re more likely to reduce your overall calorie intake…which you already know can help drive fat loss.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Although eight glasses a day still gets thrown around, there doesn’t appear to be scientific evidence for 8×8. It also seems implausible that a 220 pound athlete who sweats profusely and is living in a hot climate would need the same amount of water as a 110 pound sedentary office worker who never sweats and lives in a cold climate.
Remember that you get some water from foods that you eat as well, particularly fruits and vegetables. So if you’re eating a lot of veggies (particularly raw) and some fruit with a lot of water then you won’t need to drink as much.
I tend to advise my clients to go with the urine test. If your pee is very dark (unless it’s orange after taking multis or B vitamins) then you’re not drinking enough. If your pee is running clear and you can’t get through an hour without using the washroom then you’re probably overdoing it. Light yellow is what you’re aiming for.
7) Sleep More!
I know, I know, you’ve probably heard it about a thousand times before…and I’m afraid I’m going to have to make it a thousand and one. Sleep is really, really important for your health. The National Sleep Foundation has published recommendations that advise between7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for adults.
How does sleep affect fat loss?
You’re less likely to make good food choices if you’re tired. Ever worked a couple of late nights and then found yourself too exhausted to cook and reaching for high-calorie convenience food? Not getting enough sleep seems to suck all the motivation out of you.
Short sleepers also have more hours in the day to eat, and they’ve been shown to consume more calories.
When you don’t sleep enough, your hormones are affected as well. In particular, the hormone leptin (which reduces appetite) and the hormone ghrelin (which increases appetite). A small study in young men showed that only a couple of nights of sleep reduction decreased leptin and increased ghrelin, which resulted in more hunger. Not really surprising if you’ve ever had an exhausting week and consumed half the contents of your fridge and kitchen cupboards!
Not sleeping enough also decreases insulin sensitivity, so you won’t process carbs as well, and increases evening levels of the hormone cortisol. Higher nighttime levels of cortisol can interfere with sleep…so it sets up a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.
Of course, there are certain situations where you don’t have complete control over how much you sleep, like if you have young children or do shift work. If that’s the case for you, remember Tip 4! Do the best you can to grab some shuteye whenever possible, even if it’s a short nap during the day.
Maximizing your fat loss efforts means getting the amount of sleep you need. If you’re not getting enough, you’ll have a harder time reaching your fat loss goal (although it’s still possible!).
Setting A Realistic Goal
You might be able to lose a significant amount of weight by doing some sort of crazy starvation diet of 600-800 calories a day. Some people do even worse and try juice “fasting” (it’s exactly fasting if you’re consuming calories) where they might be eating even LESS than that.
Starvation dieting is a bad idea, for a few reasons. If you drop your calories too low then you’re in danger of losing muscle mass. In fact, even with a reasonable calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time (say, 3-4 months), maintaining muscle mass is still going to be a challenge. In that instance, keeping your protein higher than usual and doing regular weight training will reduce muscle mass loss.
Many deceitful fitness people on the Internet will try to convince you that you can loss tons of weight in a couple of weeks. You can, but you’ll be dropping water weight, excess fecal matter, and losing muscle mass, rather than losing much fat.
Keep it sensible and reasonable at about 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week.
This generally applies for people who are closer to their target weight. If you’ve got 40 or 50 pounds to lose, you might find that you can lose weight faster than that, but as you get within spitting distance of your goal you’ll find it harder to keep up the same rate of loss. The more lean you are, the harder it is for you to get leaner…so if you’re getting close to where you want to be you need to dig deep to keep up the effort.
Are You Ready?
If accelerating your fat loss is your goal, follow the seven tips above and you’ll be on your way. Over time, they’ll become habits that make up your lean, healthy, strong lifestyle.